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Wilson removed as Sharks' coach

by Brian Compton

Ron Wilson spent four plus seasons behind the San Jose Sharks bench where he became the team's all-time coaching leader in wins and winning percentage. 
Following another disappointing exit in the second round of the Stanley Cup Finals, San Jose Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson announced on Monday that the team has relieved Ron Wilson of his head-coaching duties.  The Sharks general manager also announced that team will begin a search for a new head coach immediately.
Wilson, named the sixth head coach in franchise history on Dec. 4, 2002, leaves the Sharks as the team’s all-time coaching leader in wins and winning percentage.  In four-plus seasons, he posted a 206-134-45 regular season record and a .535 winning percentage in 385.  During his tenure, the Sharks won two Pacific Division Championships (2004, 2008).
Wilson also leaves as the franchise leader in post-season games, but posted a 28-24 mark in 52 games.  He led the team to a berth in the Western Conference Finals in 2004, but San Jose failed to get past the second round the past three years.

The No. 2 Sharks went the distance in the opening round before winning Game 7 on home ice against the Calgary Flames. They then dropped the first two games of the second round against the Dallas Stars, and lost the Western Conference semifinal in six games.

It wasn’t the postseason the Sharks were hoping for following their remarkable run down the stretch of the regular season. After acquiring all-star defenseman Brian Campbell from the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 26, San Jose lost just two games in regulation the rest of the way and nearly unseated the Detroit Red Wings for the top spot in the Western Conference.

“I think we all were disappointed,” Doug Wilson said. “I’m proud of how the team played in key games, but I don’t think we played enough good games out of the 13 playoff games that we played. We’ve been in this business long enough to know that sometimes change takes place. Obviously, he was very disappointed. There’s emotions involved, and there should be emotions involved because it shows how much you care. I know how hard he’s worked for us.”

The coach admitted he was surprised by the decision, which came in a face-to-face meeting with the general manager on Monday afternoon. But given the team’s recent failures in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Wilson wasn’t exactly floored, either.

“In most ways, I was shocked when Doug told me, but I guess in some ways not surprised,” Ron Wilson said in a conference call with reporters on Monday night. “I’ve read about this so much for almost a year. However when it happens when you don’t expect it, you’re disappointed. But in lieu of the fact that this happened, I couldn’t be prouder of my work here. I think our team’s record speaks for itself. Obviously we didn’t win a Stanley Cup while I was here, and I’m disappointed in that and I’m disappointed they decided to go in a different direction.”

Doug Wilson acknowledged the credentials of Joel Quenneville (above) who recently parted ways with the Colorado Avalanche.

As for who will be the next coach in San Jose, Doug Wilson said the interviewing process will begin immediately. While he wouldn’t get into specifics, the GM acknowledged the credentials of Joel Quenneville, who parted ways with the Colorado Avalanche last week.

“He’s obviously a very qualified candidate, but you have to go through the proper process,” Doug Wilson said. “We’ll start tomorrow. I’m not just going to go down one path. We’re going to have a broad, expansive approach on this and get the group that works best for us.”

The G.M. also expressed his disappointment in the team’s inability to have a killer instinct in the postseason. San Jose went just 6-7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and fell behind 3-0 in the Western Conference Finals against the Dallas Stars before winning back-to-back games. The Sharks were eliminated in Game 6 in quadruple overtime on a goal by Brenden Morrow.

“You just can’t expect to give anybody a two or three-game head start on you and expect to come back and win,” Doug Wilson said. “Did we believe that if we had won Game 6, we would have won Game 7? Absolutely. You’ve got to put teams away. You can’t just turn it off and on when you want.”

Ron Wilson – who said he was uncertain as to whether or how soon he’ll pursue another coaching job – believes the first-round series win over the Calgary Flames took a lot out of his club. Nonetheless, he was confident his team was ready to go against the Stars, who trail the Detroit Red Wings 3-0 in the Western Conference Finals.

“To be perfectly honest with you, I think if there was one team we didn’t want to play in the first round, it would be Calgary,” he said. “They gave us trouble all season long. They won both our games this season in our building. They’ve always given us fits, and we found a way to win that series. At that point, I felt very comfortable about our team. But Dallas deserves all the credit in the world. They beat us in a fair and square series. A break here and there, and we’d be playing the Red Wings right now.” 

But Doug Wilson said he believes his team needs a new voice – a theory that the former Sharks’ coach respectfully disagreed with.

“You hear that a lot in this business,” Ron Wilson said. “Whether it’s true or not remains to be seen. I didn’t think so, but my boss thinks so. I accept Dougie’s decision. Dougie’s been an unbelievable guy to work with. He let me coach and I enjoyed every single moment of it. I think I’m a good coach. With time, I’ll look back on this experience with a big smile on my face. I think I’ve helped develop a ton of players.”

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